Unpaid Internships


I am very troubled at the number of design firms that are still not paying interns. AIA, NCARB, many state boards, and most schools have tried to penalize firms that continue to do this, but it hasn't seemed to help. Most unpaid internships are also a violation of Federal labor laws.

These are the only circumstances where a firm is allowed to not pay interns (from the Fair Labor Standards Act) - ALL SIX MUST APPLY:

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;

3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;

5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and

6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Apr 11, 14 12:49 am

I think there should be just as much outrage over the firms that offer really small stipends! They tend to get overlooked in comparison and are exploiting people almost as much, but in an even greater number.

Apr 11, 14 1:39 am  · 
Non Sequitur

Only a fool would agree to work for no pay.

Apr 11, 14 7:45 am  · 

Unpaid internships are heinous, illegal, and should not be tolerated, but I am a great deal more concerned with the $11/ hour intern jobs, the $15/ hour job captain jobs, the $18/ hour PM jobs, and if they are to be believed (they are) principals pulling down $60k/ year. The entire pay scale is skewed downwards, both from where it should be given historical pay rates and inflation ( had the 08 crash not occurred) and down from equivalent jobs in allied fields. 

It is really an industry- wide issue, from the bottom up to at least project managers, and in many cases the entire firm. Clients want to save money, and Architects, especially at small firms, have a way of falling in love with their own projects and doing whatever is necessary to get them built. So you end up cutting the fee to get the client to do it, meanwhile the contractor is telling the client he was ripped off, and everyone wonders why they are paying you when an engineer also had to stamp the drawings. 

We, as a collective group, industry, and educational apparatus, fail to educate the public about what we do. Sometimes we fail to educate architecture students about what we do. Without demonstrating value, we can never expect to be paid more. 

The AIA and NCARB could also do a good deal more to help with this issue. I'm sure some well-targeted lobbying and $20-120 million in a large state would get you a bill requiring that all new construction use an architect.

Apr 12, 14 1:28 am  · 

20-120 million huh, in a large state huh, the range is absurd you know that right? Not only is the range absurd, but you are aware of the market forces that keep legislators from doing what you are suggesting, right? You start off your comments by lamenting the declining pay/wages available, and then you suggest that AIA, and NCARB a quasi-govt agency can't lobby, do something, but you do realize that the AIA is made up of those same underpaid persons, you know that too, right? 

Apr 12, 14 8:50 am  · 

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded.

Caveat, for sure.

Apr 13, 14 2:16 am  · 

Lol 20-120 million.  Good luck.  Ya good old protectionism via sleazy lobbying... that's the way to do it.  Your feeble attempt at a solution is flawed on so many levels.  First, it is functionally impossible.  There are about 500k new houses built per year and about 100k architects.   Do the math.   Second, you are assuming that firms are not paying because they can't pay rather than that they are being greedy.  Trickle down bullshit.  Third, you are forgetting that we have Laws and liberties that would render your regulation unconstitutional.   

Apr 13, 14 12:42 pm  · 

The way to fix this problem is to have an interns union.  

Apr 13, 14 12:44 pm  · 

Just say no to an unpaid internship.

Apr 14, 14 1:57 pm  · 

Per NCARB: Unpaid internships are not eligible to earn experience hours with the exception of the approved community-based design center/collaborative as defined in experience setting S.

These lawyers are set up to go after firms with unpaid inters:

Apr 19, 14 7:25 pm  · 
Best solution: go to that firm who doesn't pay intern, and screw them up in whatever fashion you want
Apr 20, 14 2:44 pm  · 

There's no doubt that unpaid/ underpaid internships are exploitative but not necessarily one-sided. Have students and young practitioners not always been drawn to working with the greatest talents of the time at the expense of higher wages? As an example, I'm certain that whoever apprenticed for FLW wasn't making the most money, but they were convinced it was worth it.

In my opinion, the issue isn't with employers but rather with rising costs of schools that favor a "well rounded" education instead of a rigorous architectural education.

Apr 20, 14 6:03 pm  · 

There is absolutely no one who can justify an unpaid internship and those who do even slightly are a complete and utter joke to the profession.

Apr 21, 14 4:47 pm  · 

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